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Power repeats at Pocono IndyCar

Will Power overcame numerous obstacles to get to the front, then held off charging Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden to win the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway for a second straight year.

Power defeated Newgarden by 0.5268 of a second to become the first Indy car driver to post back-to-back wins on the three-turn, 2.5-mile oval in the event's 24-race history. It was also Power's third triumph this season and the 32nd of his 13-year career, moving the 36-year-old Australian into sole possession of ninth place on the all-time Indy car victory list ahead of Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy.

"It seriously means a lot. I love racing on ovals," said Power, whose win today is his sixth on an oval track. "Every oval win I get, I really, really enjoy because we don't have many of them.

"To come back and win it again in a very different way this year - it was a crazy race, exciting to me - but feels fantastic to go back-to-back."

The results also kept the battle for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship tight with three races remaining. Newgarden leads Scott Dixon by 18 points, Helio Castroneves by 22, Simon Pagenaud by 26 and Power by 42. The top 15 drivers in the standings remain mathematically alive for the title.

Starting the 200-lap race from fifth, Power made an unscheduled green-flag pit stop on Lap 66 to replace a front wing assembly on his No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and went a lap down. Power later had a damaged rear wing assembly after contact which was replaced during a caution period. Still, Power persevered, was back on the lead lap with 75 to go and worked his way through the field.

A lightning-quick pit stop on Lap 177 put Power ahead of the other front-runners who had stopped before him. When race leader Marco Andretti, who was off pit sequence, stopped for fuel on Lap 190, Power assumed first place and withstood pressure from Newgarden and Alexander Rossi over the final 10 laps.

"Once I got my lap back, I was like, 'All right, it's game on,' I can definitely get back up there," said Power, who has four top-five finishes in the last five races. "I was thinking like top-5 (finish), but when I was pumping out like 217 (mph) laps, I'm like, 'OK, we're going to make some serious hay here.'

"The guys did a fantastic job in the pits having to do all that and still able to go ahead and win the race."

Newgarden took consolation that his points lead expanded slightly with the second-place finish.

"It was a good day for points," said Newgarden, driver of the No.2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet. "Tough when you have an opportunity to potentially win a race at the end of it, but I don't think we had enough for Will, to be honest with you.

"I'm happy for Team Penske. It's a 1-2 at the end of the day, so keeping it in the family. When one car wins, we kind of all win."

Rossi led 44 laps and finished third in the No.98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda to earn his second podium finish in the past three races.

"It's a really good result, but when you come so close to a win, it's sometimes difficult to swallow," Rossi said. "Looking back to where we were at Pocono last year, when we had a strong car and didn't finish, to come back to be on the podium is a testament to Andretti Autosport and the entire team and the work that they've done all year."

Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Pagenaud was fourth in the No.1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet.

"The DXC Technology was a rocket ship at the end." said Pagenaud "This is such a long race, and all of the changes to the car seem to come together at the end. It's a little bit of a shame that we lost the train earlier in the race. I think that was costly for us. I was racing (Scott) Dixon and we lost touch with the pack. It might have been interesting had that not happened. But that's how it goes sometimes. The championship battle is still very close with just three races to go."

Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Dixon (who led a race-high 51 laps) finishing fifth and sixth, respectively.

"We had a great NTT Honda today despite missing the chance to make final adjustments in practice yesterday." said Dixon "We reverted back to an earlier setup and the car was fast early today. We decided to get out front and lead and I was happy with the car in the first half of the race. We made some adjustments after that and settled into the top five. In the last 25 or so laps we were contending, but just couldn't get back to the front."

Added Kanaan, "We needed a little bit there at the end that we just didn't have. Regardless, we fought pretty hard all day long and it was a really exciting race. That battle with Graham (Rahal) was the highlight of my race - exchanging positions back and forth for the lead. We found out after the race that we had a broken front wing that we didn't know about. We don't know how it happened or when it happened. We were so strong at the beginning of the race and I couldn't understand why we were falling back, but now we know why. Regardless, it was a great battle. I'm pretty sure my kids at home got a kick out of that. I think this place is becoming my Indianapolis, but I hope it doesn't take me 12 years to win here like it did there. The No. 10 NTT Data Honda was awesome. Unfortunately, those are the kinds of things that happen. This is INDYCAR, everyone is just so competitive. Sometimes you have a car to win, but you have a little bit of a hiccup and finish fifth."

Hunter-Reay, who sustained left hip and knee injuries in a qualifying crash Saturday, charged from the 21st starting position to lead 12 laps before finishing eighth in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport.

An exhausted Hunter-Reay said, "I've been through 500 miles plenty of times, but I'm just beat after this one. It was a great run though, we started with a lot of downforce since we started at the back of the field. Because we didn't have a final practice or warmup after qualifying, it took a while to get the balance of the car right. We started really slicing our way through it and I thought 'Hey, we really have something here.' We were leading at halfway. I thought it was going to be a good end to the race, but we just didn't get enough downforce out of (the car). I was getting big runs on guys, but just couldn't complete it. But I'm really happy to just get back in the car today and put the effort forward. We put on a good showing for DHL and for the fans out here, and that's important. It was a test today; it was a mental test, no doubt, and a physical one as well. I was really glad to roll back into pit lane after the race and see the crew here with smiles on their faces."

The thrilling race featured 42 lead changes - a Pocono race record - among 10 drivers. At one point, Kanaan and Graham Rahal swapped the lead for 12 consecutive laps.

"I think we had a really good race car today." said Rahal "We were a little too draggy on a downforce level to win today and just fell back. We were just never able to get the wing out during the pit stops to pick up a little speed. Unfortunately, as people saw on the one stop right before we lost a little bit of time, we came in and then came out in the middle of a group and got freight-trained. After that, it was all about trying to recover. Everybody did a great job on the No. 15 team today. We'll go back and review strategy to see where we could have been better. Our team has worked awfully hard and we had a car that was capable of running in the top three certainly. I don't know that I had even (Alexander) Rossi's pace. He would have struggled to get by us, but I think he was a little bit quicker and the same with a couple of other guys. When we were up with TK (Tony Kanaan), if that train could have just kept working, swapping lap-to-lap-to-lap, I would have been perfectly cool with that, but sometimes that's not the way these things go. I think we were a little too slow. Other guys could draft up on us with ease. We're just going to have to work harder to be better and finish as high as we can in the championship. We will go out there and continue to push hard to end the season strong."

The race was slowed by three cautions, including one when James Hinchcliffe and JR Hildebrand collided in Turn 1 on Lap 125. Neither driver was injured.

Added, Hildebrand, "Heading down into Turn 1, it was two-wide for a couple of rows deep. I was on the outside, James (Hinchcliffe) was making a pass on the inside, and when the guys in front of us spread out and went two-wide I started getting a big push on the outside and fed wheel-in, and it just hooked up. I went down and James was there. I'm annoyed for both of us. It was close racing there, we were getting towards the end of the race and it's just a bummer certainly for the Fuzzy's Vodka team, but also for these guys (Hinchcliffe's team)."

The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to action on Saturday, Aug. 26 with the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois. It marks the return of Indy car racing to the St. Louis region for the first time since 2003. Live race coverage begins at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

1. (5) Will Power, Chevrolet, 200, Running
2. (14) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
3. (6) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 200, Running
4. (2) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 200, Running
5. (4) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 200, Running
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 200, Running
7. (20) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
8. (21) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 200, Running
9. (7) Graham Rahal, Honda, 200, Running
10. (18) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 200, Running
11. (16) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
12. (22) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 200, Running
13. (1) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
14. (17) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (8) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
16. (3) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 200, Running
17. (11) Ed Jones, Honda, 200, Running
18. (10) Max Chilton, Honda, 129, Mechanical
19. (19) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 124, Contact
20. (12) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 124, Contact
21. (15) Sebastian Saavedra, Honda, 114, Contact
22. (13) Esteban Gutierrez, Honda, 23, Contact

Race Statistics
Winner's average speed: 183.737 mph
Time of Race: 2:43:16.6005
Margin of victory: 0.5268 of a second
Cautions: 3 for 17 laps
Lead changes: 42 among 10 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Kanaan 1-11
Rossi 12-27
Kanaan 28-29
Dixon 30-53
Rossi 54-55
Power 56
Hildebrand 57-58
Dixon 59
Rossi 60-65
Dixon 66-81
Rossi 82-83
Hinchcliffe 84
Rossi 85
Hinchcliffe 86-87
Dixon 88-97
Rossi 98-99
Hunter-Reay 100-103
Rossi 104-114
Newgarden 115-117
Hunter-Reay 118-122
Rahal 123
Kanaan 124-133
Rahal 134
Kanaan 135
Rahal 136
Kanaan 137
Rahal 138
Kanaan 139
Rahal 140
Kanaan 141
Rahal 142
Kanaan 143
Rahal 144
Kanaan 145-146
Rahal 147
Kanaan 148-149
Rahal 150
Hunter-Reay 151-153
Power 154-176
Rossi 177-180
Newgarden 181
Andretti 182-190
Power 191-200

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Newgarden 494, Dixon 476, Castroneves 472, Pagenaud 468, Power 452, Rahal 418, Sato 399, Rossi 394, Kanaan 351 and Hinchcliffe 327.

08/21/17

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